December 31st, 2008
They were all in the living room. Some sat on the couch, other stood by it or leaned against it.
Cassandra was standing behind it, holding a plastic martini ‘glass’ filled with orange soda.
It was three minutes to midnight.
Cassandra stood in the familiar field.
Her head snapped around. She still held herself as if she had the soda in hand, but there was nothing but air between her fingers.
“Well, this is different.” Said a familiar voice, quoting what she was thinking.
Cassandra spun around to see Uriel with his hands in his pockets.
“I thought you said this was a place we only get to while sleeping,” Cassandra said.
“It is.” Uriel said with a nod. His characteristic smirk was gone. Instead, there was a frown etched across his pale face. “Like I said, this is, ah, different.”
Cassandra looked around as if she was about to cross the street. She approached him.
Uriel himself looked around, his odd eyes peering out through his bangs. “I’d ask you to stay put, but I know for a fact you’ll wander off the second I disappear.” He looked back at her. “It’d really mean a lot less headaches in the future if you don’t wander, though.”
Cassandra rose an eyebrow. She turned and began to walk in a random direction.
She heard Uriel sigh. Then she heard the folding of grass as he jogged to catch up with her.
“I didn’t mean headaches for just me, my department and coworkers,” he said.
“That’s an oddly modern, detached way to describe whatever it is you do.” Cassandra replied.
“I’m trying to get back into my casual, dry-humor way of talking. What’s going on is not normal. And that’s saying a lot for a place like this.”
“I see something.” Cassandra stopped. She squinted.
“Here we go…”
Cassandra ran over to the figure.
“Seth!” She skidded to a halt. Uriel stopped behind her, as if keeping his distance.
“Cassandra?” Seth ran over to her, his scarf missing. He was dressed like Reeve from Final Fantasy VII–his outfit from Halloween. His eyes looked passed her. “Is that–Uriel?”
Uriel was looking up at the sky. “Mmhmm.” He folded his arms, not looking at Seth.
Cassandra studied Seth. He looked real and he probably felt real. Their eyes met and then she knew this was indeed the real Seth–the very same one who was probably passed out not even two feet away from her.
They both looked at Uriel.
The thing sighed. “Alright, you got me.” He held his hands up. “You guys–all of you? Ya broke something.” He began to wave his hands, as if ushering them to start walking. “So march. We’re gonna figure this out. Well, I am. I’m just gonna use you guys to observe.”
Cassandra leaned over to whisper to Seth despite it being useless. “How’s he look to you?”
“Tall, pale, lanky, and smarmy.”
Cassandra looked back at Uriel. “Same.”
Seth put a protective arm around her shoulders.
“Let’s walk, shall we?” Uriel took his place next to Cassandra.
They walked with him.
“What is this place?” Seth asked after a moment.
“Ah–oh, can’t say.” Uriel sighed.
Cassandra gave Uriel a look.
“Seth’s job to say–he’s gotta figure it out.”
“Say what?” Seth frowned, looking between Uriel and Cassandra.
“I’m not allowed to tell any of you what goes on in the brains of anyone else.” Uriel sighed. “This is very difficult, I want you to know that.”
Cassandra looked at Seth. “Have you never been here?”
“I don’t think so.” Seth shook his head. “At least, not this area? Uriel’s voice sounds familiar, at least.”
“Thank you,” Uriel huffed.
They crested a hill.
Cassandra and Seth looked down. It was Miro.
“Miro!” Seth called out.
The young man sat up, dazed. He turned to see them and scrambled to his feet. His scarf was nowhere to be seen.
“Let’s keep going,” Uriel said.
They eventually found the others scattered across the seemingly endless field. Cassandra glanced at Seth. Despite all this walking he seemed to be just as energetic as before. She herself didn’t feel like an ounce of energy had been drained.
“Follow me,” Uriel said.
They obliged. Even Liridon.
Cassandra rubbed her arms. They were all disturbingly quiet and obedient. She glanced at Raphael. He cocked an eyebrow. Maybe he noticed too.
The group followed Uriel down a hill and into a small meadow surrounded by hills.
Uriel turned to face them.
“Alright,” he said, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “I’m gonna say this right now: This is not supposed to happen.”
There was the flapping of wings. Everyone looked up as a figure shot down from the sky.
He straightened up. Cassandra saw Icarus and Miro recoil. Her head snapped between them and the new figure. This new person, she noticed, seemed to tower over Uriel yet was barely a few inches taller than him. His skin was a deep tan and he had red-bronze hair that was thick, curled around his face, and the rest was pulled back into a braid that went to his ankles. In his hands was a spear with a cluster of long, blue feathers at the base of the point. He wore what looked like some kind of short toga.
His eyes were a rich brown and full of menace.
“Right.” Uriel gestured to the new person. “Guys, this is Michael.”
The one named Michael said nothing.
“We’re breaking lots of rules right now,” Uriel continued, as if nothing was amiss. “He enforces the rules.”
Michael simply stared at them.
“I’m doing a lot of special things that’s making him not do his job right,” Uriel continued. “So, what’s going to happen is you’re all going to wake up in just a moment. Then you’re never coming here again in a group. Individuals only. Got it?”
Cassandra sat up.
She looked around, her pants damp and cold from the soda she had spilled.
Everyone around her was picking themselves off the floor, groaning.
“What the hell was that?” Seth spat. He looked at Cassandra. “You dreamt the same thing, right?”
She stared at him. “I, uh,” she looked to Raphael, who had slumped over the couch.
“We all saw that smart ass Uriel, right?” Liridon’s voice boomed over the bubbling cheers from the TV.
“And a Michael?” John asked.
Everyone stood up. Icarus was leaning against Miro for support, his eyes distant and pale.
Cassandra glanced at Liridon. He looked shaken, yet with how his jaw was clenched and how hard his gaze was, he was trying to conquer it.
“What happened, Liridon?” Seth asked after a moment.
Liridon looked at him.
“What do you think?” Came their friend’s reply. “We just broke the rules.”